ABC News, Dec 2022 🏘️ Housing and climate, tenant experiences, and more

Last month, ABC invited researchers from the Rocky Mountain Institute to share their findings on how housing policy can help slow the rate of climate change. They reported that building more housing in dense, high-income cities with jobs and access to transit can reduce greenhouse gasses from transportation, the economic sector contributing most to GHG emissions. RMI’s analysis shows that the US cannot meet its Paris Agreement target of holding warming to 1.5 degrees without shifting the amount we drive or where we build. Notes from the talk and Q&A, as well as a recording, are available.

A recent NY Times interactive feature, “The Climate Impact of Your Neighborhood, Mapped”, provides dramatic visual confirmation of RMI’s findings. Drawing on data that map GHG emissions to household consumption of goods and services -- rather than to actual sites of emissions -- the Times’s color-coded maps show that sprawling suburbs and rural areas are responsible for more climate-changing activities than the denser areas of larger cities

GHG emissions of Boston area households


In Cambridge…

  • If you’re struggling to keep up with all of the housing news coming out of City Hall, mark your calendars - we will present a virtual Cambridge Housing Policy Status Debrief on Tuesday, January 10th at 7:00pm. Come and ask questions about parking minimums, linkage fees, the FY24 budget, exclusionary zoning, the proposed Affordable Housing Overlay amendments, and more! Register here.
  • The Community Development Department recently presented a report on the experiences of Cambridge residents in market rate, affordable and inclusionary housing. After conducting phone surveys of several hundred residents, the National Initiative on Mixed-Income Communities (NIMC) at Case Western Reserve University reported that while 49% had no experience of bias, 40% of residents in “inclusionary” units did encounter incidents of bias, most often from private management of the housing and from market rate tenants and unit-owners, around issues of race and income level. CDD is continuing to work with NIMC on ways to reduce such incidents.
  • While federal support for public housing authorities is often accompanied by pressures to privatize, the Cambridge Housing Authority has found ways to modernize its housing while keeping it in public hands. In “The Case for Truly Public Housing,” authors dive deeply into the CHA’s history and operations, defending “the value of housing as a public good” and arguing for “truly public housing — funded, developed, owned, and operated by public agencies”. The article also credits Cambridge’s strong local support for affordable housing, through the Affordable Housing Trust and the Affordable Housing Overlay, with helping the CHA pull it off.
  • The Unhoused Neighbors Project, by City Councilor Marc McGovern and social worker Eva Tine, has collected and presented stories of individual unhoused Cambridge residents, in order to “introduce you to our amazing, kind, insightful, capable, resilient, unhoused neighbors” and to underscore that “homelessness can happen to any of us.”

In other news…

  • A Boston Foundation report finds that about 57% of the households currently eligible for rental assistance are not being helped due to lack of funding and program design and operations (fragmented administration, long waiting lists which are frequently closed, etc.). The report calls for “reducing homelessness, addressing racial inequities, alleviating poverty, and providing new incentives to build housing” through an expansion of the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program.
  • The Boston Globe has an extensive report on a family with two working parents earning $80,000 a year who went from stable housing, to a 6-month period of moving through 6 motel rooms, to living in a tent at a campground.
  • The Biden administration has released a plan to reduce homelessness 25% by 2025. Although short on details, the document declares that, “the fundamental solution to homelessness is housing,” noting that “homelessness is largely the result of failed policies...Severely underfunded programs and inequitable access to quality education, health care… and economic opportunity have led to an inadequate safety net.”